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Venue Freakout

June 22, 2010

A.K.A. What kind of wedding do we really want?

Isaiah and I have been so torn on what kind of wedding we want, and in turn, what venue should the wedding be held in. So far, the only decision we have set in stone is the venue, but wait…not really.

We have two very distinct sides to our personalities and relationship: Modern-swank, hip-hop-loving, rock’n roll and the indie-music, vintage-loving, eclectic kids side.

We had settled on Carnivale as our choice for the venue. I realized I hadn’t listed the reasons why yet, so here’s why:

  • Super colorful and mod, loving the decor and the location of the venue.
  • Very representative of our personalities.
  • Within our budget.
  • Great food, serves Latin Fusion, specializes in Puerto Rican food {Isaiah’s PR-ness}
  • Nothing to do but sign the contract, pick the menu and pay-up. They have everything else. They do the chairs/tables/linens/flatware/setup/take-down/clean-up/insurance…there is nothing to worry about. {Planning from Texas, this is actually a bigger deal than it may seem}
  • SO unlike any venue we’ve seen before.

The problem? The other side of us says: “Carnivale is RIGHT at budget. Though they have everything we’re looking for, were we really planning on bare-bonesing the rest of the wedding?” We have a couple of other venues in mind for the other half of our “relationship personality.”

The Mayslake Peabody Estate

Kind of a weak, blurry shot, but you get the idea…Outdoor tent with table/chair setup (this tent also has a lounge area inside, with outdoor sofas and what-not).

Am I strange for loving this chapel?


Winnetka Community House

Very pretty outdoors – lots of ivy and great chairs, which I’ve been noticing make a bigger difference than you ever thought chairs would.

I like this view, it’s not as epic as the Chicago skyline though, eh?

A New Leaf

GREAT venue. It’s totally warm and cozy and stunning. A New Leaf is photographed beautifully by Becky Hill photography on Chicago Wedding Venues. {Definitely worth checking out}


All of the venues we’ve been looking at lately have the same thing in common: Outdoors, perfect for having our favorites catered (Gino’s East, Portillo’s) and having an-all-out Chicago-food-fest and dance-party. There’s a lot that we could/would-have-to DIY in those venues, but they are about 3x less expensive than Carnivale. We could get away with some money left over for a honeymoon or a good start toward down-payment on a house.

Isaiah and I are both torn between these two options. We love the all-included aspect of Carnivale, and would we be able to decorate a blank slate 1/2 as well? They’re both pretty relaxed ideas, Carnivale is not an elegant venue, whatsoever, it’s more kick-ass than the photos in real life and I love both options.

Here’s lookin at you, kids. I’m wondering:

  1. If there’s a reason why you chose your indoor/outdoor venue.
  2. If you chose a DIY or all-details-included venue.
  3. If you’ve already tied the knot, what were your experiences with either?
  4. What do you recommend?

P.S. We have a RAD template for you this week. No sneak peeks, no worries. Just really excited for Thursday.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. June 22, 2010 3:10 pm

    i ADORE that chapel! totally awesome.

    The Carnivale food does sound deLISH though!

    what’s your color palette? is it like that Carnivale place?

    • June 22, 2010 3:23 pm

      Ooh girl, you are way ahead of us, haha. We’ll probably pick a color palette after we pick a venue, I think. But I do LOVE the colors there.

  2. June 22, 2010 3:23 pm

    Definitely a dilemma.

    Choosing outdoor was easy for us- barbecue pit, sunshine, summertime, and less to decorate. I think having an outdoor wedding meant (for us at least) we could allow our location to shine and just be beautiful- rolling hills, beautiful view overlooking the county etc.

    We originally chose an indoor venue b/c it had the tables, chairs, sound system etc. But for one reason or another (owner was always high, he tried to rip us off, it was stuffy with no A/C, nagging MIL) we didn’t pick it.

    We’re happy with our choice, but if I could offer my two cents- be open to change. The wedding Josh and I started is nothing like the wedding we have now. Our blog definitely speaks to that. (hmmm…. I smell my guest post!)

    You two remind me of Josh and I- we totally wanted to class it up and be rock stars, but we also have this side of wanting to be our indie-hip-kid-selves. Obviously the wedding we’re having is mostly DIY/DIT/throw money at someone- but it took a lot of research and crying and yelling and drinking. I think we made the right choice.

    You and Isaiah will too. 🙂

    • June 22, 2010 3:29 pm

      Thanks so much Angie. We are having the hardest time with it. We’re definitely open to change {GREAT guest post idea}, but maybe too open! We don’t have a single clue about what kind of wedding we want…I’ll be emailing you for some details on your wedding that I’m curious about, but in the meantime, thanks for understanding the dilemma {I knew you & Josh would}, and we gots a lot of thinkin to do, eh?

  3. June 22, 2010 3:31 pm

    We went with a blank slate outdoor venue which we plan to majorly DIY with the help of a talented event designer. I love the ability to do whatever I want and incorporate even more of our personalities into the decor so it is even more personal and unique. Plus the place we picked was also 3x cheaper than our first choice. I think Carnivale looks super fun but all those colors may distract from what your wedding is all about, YOU! A blank slate allows both you and your personalities to really shine.

    • June 22, 2010 3:36 pm

      Thanks for the rec, Alicia. I definitely appreciate the suggestion and will keep that in mind. The problem we’re having turning down Carnivale is that that is almost-exactly our personalities. It’s tough to tell if having an indie/DIY/vintage-inspired wedding is what you really want or just the weddings you relate to most in all of the wedding porn, you know? {If we’re being perfectly honest, I know it’s better sounding to say that we know EXACTLY what we want and what kind of wedding-personality we are, but this is our first and last wedding…you know? Important, but we’re also newbies obviously! Haha}

      Thanks again!

  4. June 22, 2010 3:46 pm

    We originally wanted an outdoor bbq beachy thing, but it proved impossible to do on a budget because of all the alcohol-private event-beach restrictions. Plus, we started to worry about kids and oceans and life guards. And then there were too many restrictions and expenses associated with getting a bbq caterer. So I got really frustrated with the DIY wedding, and started looking at venues that were all-inclusive or mostly inclusive. But, like you, I worried about bare-bonesing the wedding just to fit within the low end of the all-inclusive budgets. Plus, the all-inclusiveness seemed to take away a lot of the fun parts of planning.

    Ultimately, we decided to go sort of a middle ground. We’re traveling to our wedding, too, so one of the first things we did was find a day-of coordinator who would help us work out all of the logistics. She also is providing a lot of the stuff we would otherwise need to rent from a party supply company.

    Our party wedding and party are both going to be indoors because the weather is unpredictable in San Francisco during the summer. I didn’t want to have to worry about weather. Although, we’ll probably end up in the outdoor garden for at least part of the party (can’t do a pinata inside).

    • June 22, 2010 7:51 pm

      I definitely know that I am not the first person to go through this dilemma, haha. I appreciate hearing about your challenges in choosing. Outdoor garden! Woot! It sounds like it’s going to be beautiful! A day-of-coordinator that’s not “just trying this out for my first wedding at a low rate, we’ll see how it goes.” – That’s what their e-mails say, in Chicago is $1500-$2000. Not available for a single vendor meeting or anything before.

      I looked for about a week pretty extensively, but there may be one less out there, if so, they’re not easy to find whatsoever. The wedding coordinator dilemma is a whole other story! 10% of the wedding cost, but they save 15%…yadda yadda! I’m glad you’ll have some help that day! Definitely something necessary for long-distance planning!

  5. June 22, 2010 3:48 pm

    We went with a beautiful place in Berkeley (just a few minutes from where I grew up and my parents still live) called The Brazilian Room, or, as we now call it, the Bridezilian Room. The ceremony will be outside on a great patio overlooking a big sloping lawn and a bunch of trees, and the reception indoors in an amazing room with high ceilings and awesome wood and long windows, all at the same place, so we sort of get to experience both. We didn’t actually do a ton of research before settling on it, largely because it’s one of the most wonderful places around and we got an insanely good deal on it. For a weekend wedding we would have paid over $3,000 – but we went with a Thursday night, which cost $600 for a 5-hour block! (and we added a couple more hours for minimal cost). Most of our guests are local so we figured we could easily do a weeknight.

    So initially, we were stoked about all the money we were saving. We are still stoked, but we are running into some issues with the venue’s approved caterers list and trying to find something reasonable for our budget, for 150 people. Like you, we are attempting the whole thing for $10K, and the catering has been by far the biggest obstacle. We may end up catering it ourselves or doing a potluck type deal.

    We’re going to DIY it as much as possible, especially with regards to anything crafty.

    • June 22, 2010 7:48 pm

      Definitely. That sounds amazing! It’s great you guys got an awesome deal. The approved caterers list is the devil and I will not stand for it. I think it’s a ridiculous practice and should be stopped. We found a GREAT venue for $1500 Friday night. We were all “Word.” Then their LEAST expensive, BUFFET style caterer was $10,000 for 100 people. We were hoping to invite 150. RIDICULOUS. I will not pay $100/head for a carving station and buffet style food. Kidding me. I’m not even cheap either, really…I just know a ridiculous price-tag when I see one.

      *That’s another problem with the decision. The minimum for Carnivale is actually VERY generous considering their per person prices {wish we could just knock the price down, but since we can’t}, with their minimum, we can actually afford to invite 40 more people than planned at any other venue. The more the merrier?

      Best of luck with your wedding! It sounds like it’s gonna be awesome.

  6. June 22, 2010 7:19 pm

    I’m totally in love with Carnival – just saying. 🙂
    For us, we chose the one we liked that allowed us to bring in our own caterer and that fit the budget. We really didn’t have many choices. So we have a pretty bland place that has very little personality. But thats fine. We’re going to do some DIY to add personality. Between our venue and caterer all our needs are taken care of – tables, linens, chairs, dinnerware, etc.

    I agree with Angie that you have to be open to change. There are so many possible weddings to plan and most of them would be awesome. All you have to do is pick one of the many awesome options.

    I know it feels like “OMG, we have to pick THE ONE!” but its impossible to find a place that will totally encompass all the various aspects of you and your relationship. Its just choosing which wedding you want to have now.

    Good luck!

    • June 22, 2010 7:44 pm

      WOW. Jen. We read this together and really appreciated your perspective on things. “There are so many possible weddings to plan and most of them would be awesome. Its just choosing which wedding you want to have now.”

      I definitely agree. We are super level-headed about the wedding planning process and we understand that your wedding does not represent your marriage, it’s not your marriage and it won’t mean a whole lot to your marriage after the day is done. {That being said, it’s great to learn how to plan things together and negotiate and responsibly follow through together on things…also…picking out delicious food for a kick-ass dance party is definitely on my list of awesome things to do together}

      Anyway, I really appreciate your thoughts, it’s hard when you’re in the middle of it to understand where the middle ground is between “Will I regret it if we bare-bones the whole thing?” and “I want it noooooow (Everything)” about the wedding. I guess that’s what those two venues represent. Are we willing to sacrifice a little rockstarness to responsibly have some money left over to start our lives together or do we want to live it up rockstar style while staying just a smidge under budget and figuring out the rest later.

  7. July 1, 2010 12:54 pm

    Hopefully this is better late than never! 🙂

    For our venue, we ended up picking it because it had both gorgeous outdoor and indoor situations, so that we’d be covered for both good weather and bad. I wanted to do decorations projects for fun and enhancement, not putting so much energy towards prettifying a bland hall space.

    It kind of resulted in a snowball effect, though, because while the outdoors is pretty and the indoors is basically a house with great bones, there is absolutely nothing else–no chairs, no tables, etc, so we decided to hire a caterer that would help us figure out the rentals and setup. There will still have be decorations and such too so I think it still qualifies as DIY. Mostly the all-inclusive packages I looked at made me feel annoyed for having to pay so much for the privilege of something really boring, but it doesn’t sound like Carnivale is like that at all for you guys!

    From what you’ve written here, I lean towards Carnivale for you guys because of the planning from a distance thing and how it really fits you well. I think it makes sense to research the other options if either there’s something in your budget (like photography, though I know you guys have that awesome student photographer) that you need more room for and you’ve decided to prioritize over the style of Carnivale/easy of using them, OR if there’s something fairly major that you actually want to do yourself, even if you weren’t budget constrained, like if you were planning on bringing entirely different tables and chairs in.

    Looking forward to seeing what you guys finally decide on! I think it’s great to hear more about why people chose what they chose, it’s much more helpful to see real-life examples of decisions people made and the different factors they considered and weighed.

    • July 1, 2010 1:31 pm

      CERTAINLY better late than never, dear KWu. We’ve not made ANY new decisions! I am leaning toward Carnivale as well…HOWEVER, found a COUPLE of great venues that would be $150 for the DAY, the whole DAY! Yeah, they’re bare-bones and outside, but that would leave us $9,850 left for decorations, food, NO restrictions on catering and what not. Really, so tempting. However..the whole planning long-distance thing is certainly on my mind.

      Thanks so much for the feedback, and I agree, all of your opinions have helped so much!

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